US-North Korea Talks Begin in New York

Posted July 28th, 2011 at 1:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A top North Korean diplomat described the first session of talks with U.S. officials Thursday as “constructive and interesting.”

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, the head of a North Korean delegation, spoke briefly as he headed to lunch after a morning meeting at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Special envoy Stephen Bosworth is leading the U.S. delegation to the two countries' first high-level direct talks in 18 months.

Kim said the two sides exchanged views on general issues and called the atmosphere good.

The United States views the talks as an opportunity to determine whether North Korea is serious about fulfilling commitments it made in 2005 to scrap its nuclear weapons programs in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.

The talks are expected to last two days.

Kim earlier this week expressed hope for the talks, which North Korea has sought for several months.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have worked since 2003 to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Pyongyang refused to return to the talks since 2008. In 2009, North Korea tested its second nuclear weapon.

In Pyongyang Wednesday, North Korea reiterated its longstanding desire for a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the 1950-to-1953 Korean War. However, Washington maintains it will not forge a separate peace with Pyongyang before it reconciles with South Korea.

The United States invited Kim and his delegation to New York following successful talks between the North and South Korean nuclear negotiators last week in Indonesia. Their meeting signaled a possible thaw after more than a year of high tension between the two countries.

South Korea has been demanding an apology from the North for the sinking of a warship, the Cheonan, by what international investigators say was a North Korean torpedo in March 2009. Pyongyang denies any role in the sinking.

The South also wants an apology for a deadly artillery attack in November on a border island, Yeonpyeong. North Korea claims the South provoked the attack.